Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Wheels on the Bus Go Up Your......

F*&$ing a&%hol*!!!!!!!!!!!!

That's pretty much what I feel like screaming every single morning since Maya's new school year started.  

Now all parenting is tough, special needs or not.  All children go through difficult moments or phases or times.  They throw off your plans, your sleep, your sanity.  

You know what one of the  B I G  differences is though?

When you have a child with special needs, every single thing in their lives becomes a friggin' milestone.  Every nuance, every new thing, every change has the potential to wreak total and absolute havoc in your child's life and in turn, in your life as a parent.  

School is a milestone, vacation is a milestone, sickness is a milestone, birthday parties are a milestone, playing outside is a milestone, eating, sleeping, you get the picture.  

With autism nothing just is.

The changes have been running rather fast at Maya these last couple of weeks.  Vacation mode, going abroad, coming home, new au pair, new school year, new class (and away from her friends).  That's a monumental amount of change for my girl.  

The worst change of all though-- the new school bus.  

Now, the school bus is probably one of the hardest situations for Maya to succeed in.  It's small, it's noisy and there is no individualized attention because the driver, has to, you know, drive.  We've had problems on the bus before.  It's actually one of the hardest places because neither the school nor us as parents aren't actually there and therefore it is tough for us to have any real influence on the situation.  These are special needs kids and they all have their very individual set of issues and often those issues come into conflict, and they very little tools in the resolving conflict department.   So, the bus represents a place where issues can easily spiral out of control.  

Particularly if you have a bus driver that doesn't understand the situation properly and you know, who doesn't give a shit.  

For the past two years we had a great driver.    He knew the kids, he tried, he was patient and he was flexible and willing to work together with the parents and the school to try different ways to make the bus ride more successful for everyone concerned.  He took bad days in stride, he didn't take it out on the kids or write them off as bad kids.  He may not always have known how to deal with their issues, but he approached it with a good nature, a lot of patience and he cared about the kids.  There were bad days, but he never took it out on the kids or us, he'd always think together with us how we could address a particular difficulty, he listened to us and in turn we listened to him and tried to work together with him to solve his problems and make it easier for him.  

Apparently those days are gone.  

In the Netherlands, getting bussed to school is not a regular thing.  There are no school districts, parents are free to choose whatever school they like for their child.  Most kids go to schools in their own neighborhood and can very easily walk or bike to school.  For children with special needs though (like us), there may not always be a close by option which offers the appropriate environment for your child.  In that situation, the municipality where you live has to provide transport.  Every year you have to go through the usual song and dance, fill out the paperwork, blah, blah, blah.  This means though that the municipality will sometimes (as they've done now) change bus companies and go with a cheaper offer.  Which is pretty much what I think went down because we went from having a known, specialized bus company that deals with all forms of special needs, be it physical or cognitive and their drivers were trained and aware of the situation and understood that transporting these kids can be a particular challenge.  Now the municipality has changed companies, to another company specialized, but this company has subcontracted out to a regular taxi company and their drivers are just regular taxi drivers and have no idea what they are in for.  I don't know for sure but I am guessing the other specialized company got the contract probably by undercutting the price and then subcontracting out because the cheaper price does not cover the specialization.  

So I now have an older version of Beavis driving my daughter to school and every morning I have to resist the urge to special order a Louisiana Slugger bat from and beat this guy silly with it.  On the very first day of school he showed up at my house, I walked Maya out and he was yelling at this boy, let's call him Frank, from Maya's school, albeit a very difficult child, who doesn't talk and has a very hard time behaving.  The kids all have assigned seats in the bus and Frank wasn't in his seat and Maya was having a cow about it (because her autistic memory means she can remember who farted on the bus at exactly 2.13 PM three years ago) and she is having none of this jostling the seats around business.  I tried to explain to the driver that each child has their own assigned seat and it would be better for him and for the kids if they were to sit in the seats they were accustomed to.  He said, nobody informed him about it, so he doesn't have to do it.  

So I knew that the ride would be bumpier than my home state of Pennsylvania in winter even though the Netherlands boasts zero potholes.  

Day two, Beavis arrives at my house and I can hear Frank screaming at the top of his lungs before I arrive at the front door.  Maya's best friend L was in the seat next to Frank which is not his place and he had tears in his eyes.  When he saw me he undid his seatbelt and hugged me.  I again said to the driver that each child has an assigned seat and it would be better if L sat in front next to the driver, if Frank sat in the middle bench by the door and if Maya were in the back corner by the window.  Then each kid is not in physical reach of one another and cannot start tormenting the other.  He told me that it doesn't matter because your daughter doesn't know how to behave anyway.  I explained to him that these are children with special needs and while I know it's difficult he needed to listen and try to find an approach which will work.  He then turned to Maya and said are you going to start already, you need to listen and get your seat belt on and not cause trouble.  I told him he is never to scold my daughter, that if there is a problem, he is to talk to me about it.  He turned his head and looked the other way.  

These are just a few examples of the issues we have encountered in all of 8 days of school.  

At school they said last week that Maya came to school upset every single day and has been very difficult to reach these days.  

Tell me about it.  

Now I am not putting it all on Beavis, these kids are difficult and my daughter can be naughty and is more likely to be when her routine is broken and when things are stressful.   So, I cannot blame the driver completely, I certainly can and do blame him for doing absolutely NOTHING to be constructive and help the situation.  In all honesty he probably had absolutely no idea what he was in for when they gave him this route.  I've called the transport company and complained twice so far and have made an agreement with the school that if things don't settle down in two weeks, we will lodge a formal complaint with the municipality and they will back me up.  

It probably won't do much good but I will jump through the hoops anyway, because if I don't address it, no one will.  

The question is what to do if a change doesn't happen?  I am a working mom who has to be at work. Leo has to be at work early in the morning and can't drive her.  We are a one car family.  It's a one hour  trip to go to Maya's school each day.  I suppose I could take her on the days when I am not travelling and get the au pair to take her when I am.  But why should I have to do that?  This is well within our rights to have appropriate transport and while I don't lob all the blame onto the driver, I do expect someone to take a constructive approach.  

Now if I can get through the next ten or so days without punching that guy in his face.  

1 comment:

  1. You know, the bus driver and company are to blame. They need to take into account the type of kids that are under their care during the journey. Personally I think it is outrageous that the designated driver is so unaccommodating. Good luck.